"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

God Doesn't Always Do What I Ask, But He's Already Done Far More Than I'll Ever Grasp

There are few things more gut-wrenching than losing a child to death because of illness or accident. A comparable pain might be the sudden death or unexpected critical illness of a spouse. Losing a parent to death--regardless of age--also brings to us a great deal of emotional trauma.

Precisely because the loss of a loved one is so painful, many turn to God when they begin to "walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Even people unaccustomed to prayer often ask God to heal their loved ones. In some cases, prayer chains are started, all doubt is cast out, and by faith, people claim and believe that God is going to heal those they love.

And yet death still comes.

Often the greater pain becomes my disappointment with God. The hardest question is always "Why?" Why does God not do what I ask? Why does God not answer my heartfelt please and prayers?

There seems to be some encouragement for those of us who ask the "Why" questions from a story in Luke 7:11-15 that involves a widow, her dead son, and Jesus.
Soon afterwards He went to a city called Nain; and His disciples were going along with Him, accompanied by a large crowd. Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
You might be thinking, "But I thought this text was supposed to encourage me when God doesn't do what I ask? It looks to me God did precisely what the widow desired--He healed her son. How is that a help to us for whom God doesn't respond with a miracle?"

Let me see if I can't show you something pretty incredible (in my opinion) about the widow from Nain and the resurrection of her only son.

The Parallelism with Christ's Death 

Jesus Christ raised three people from the dead during His earthly ministry--this son of the widow from Nain; the daughter of Jairus; and Lazarus. This resurrection of the widow's son was the first resurrection miracle Jesus performed. On many fronts, this miracle of the resurrected widow's son pictures and parallels God's compassion for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

(1). He was an only son. The Greek phrased used to describe this widow's son -- ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός literally "only begotten son"- is the same phrase used of Jesus in John 3:16. It is used only one other time in the New Testament, describing Abraham's son Isaac in Hebrews 11:17 when Abraham offered his "only begotten son" on the altar - a clear type of God the Father offering His Son as a sacrifice for us.

(2). He was outside the gate.  Both the widow's son and Jesus Christ are dead 'outside the gate' of the city (Hebrews 13:12). The Hebrew Day of Atonement called for two goats to be 'offered' during the ritual; one goat for a blood offering and the other as the scapegoat offering. Israel’s sins were laid upon the scape goat and expelled from the camp; the blood offering goat was sacrificed, the blood offered, and the body burned "outside the gate." (Leviticus 16:20-22).

(3). He was raised for othersThere are two dead people in this Luke 7:11-15 story; the boy and his widowed mother. The boy was physically dead. The mother was emotionally and spiritually dead. Notice that Jesus 'felt compassion for her' (v. 13).  Jesus raised the dead son for the sake of his mother. So, too, God the Father gave us His only begotten Son for the sake of others. "God so loved us" (John 3:16). The Apostle Paul described it this way: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

(4). He was offered with a command. When Jesus raised the boy from the dead by the word of His power, He gave him back to his mother with this command (to the mother) - "Do not weep."  This word 'weep' means more than tears; its speaks of mourning, lamenting, despairing, and giving up. Why should the mother not weep? This is the key: "Jesus gave him to his mother."  To follow through fully with the type: "Do not mourn, God has raised His Son from the dead and given Him to us!"

Principle:
The only anecdote against despair during a trying time--including those occasions when our prayers seemingly go unanswered --is the growing comprehension of what God has already done for us in giving to us His resurrected Son.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? But in everything we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:31-32; 37-39).

"But God, begin rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us - even when we were dead in trespasses and sins ... raised us up with His Son and seated us with Him in heavenly places, so that in the ages to come He might show us the surpasses riches of His grace in His kindness toward us." (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Application
(A) The greatest riches in my life are vertical, not horizontal. When I receive, comprehend, and enjoy the love of God for me in Christ Jesus, I no longer need or depend on the love of people in this life. So, even if those I love are gone (or turn against me) I rest in the love of Him who loves me eternally.
(B). To the degree I lack comprehension of the riches of God's kindness, favor, and love for me in Christ Jesus I will be tempted to measure God's love, favor and kindness for me by whether or not God always answers my prayers the way I ask rather than rejoicing in what He has already done for me.

Action
I will spend more time learning about the love of God for me in what He has already done for me through His Son than I will worrying about what God will do for me in the future through meeting a temporal need I have.

Conclusion:
Nain is a city in Israel that still exists. It's just to the southwest of Mt. Tabor in the Galilee region of Israel. The modernized spelling of Nain has switched to Nein. I've been there a few times in my trips to Israel, and I never pass through without thinking of "the widow of Nain" and what her story declares about God's compassion and love for me in giving me His Son.

Nein in German means "No.'

If I am praying for God to do something miraculous in my life, but the circumstances play out in such a way that God seems to say "Nein" to my request, I want to remember the widow of "Nein" and learn to "weep not" because God has already given to me His Son. If indeed, I am able by God's grace to remember this principle, I will be able to say with all the saints...

 "I love Nein"

7 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Romans 8:26 seems to tell me I don't know what I should really pray for. I surmise that's because I don't know everything God knows, so it comes down to: Do I trust me, or do I trust Him.

If He's not trustworthy when I don't understand Him, He's never trustworthy. And that is simply not the case.

Christiane said...

Maybe the miracles we need most are the ones we don't realize are happening for us . . . I have come to understand this is true for me. And I suspect that God's tender graces to us are often silently given without our conscious realization, and that these mercies are gifts of loving-kindness that sustain us in those times when we do not know what to pray for, because we cannot know the depth of our own need.

All is grace.

Please pray for my family . . . there is a death and a hospitalization because of the shock and we are resting in God's peace and grace as never before.

Please pray for us. God bless you all.

Victorious said...

Praying for you and your family, Christiane.

Christiane said...

Thank you so very much, Victorious, I am grateful for your kindness
love, Christiane

Wade Burleson said...

Christiane,

I echo Victorious. You and your family are in my prayers.

Christiane said...

Thank you, WADE. I am grateful for your kindness and your prayers. Peace of Christ to you and to your family and your faith community of Emmanuel Baptist Church.

God is good.

Gordon said...

Wade,

Hebrews 12 confirms we have more than ample spiritual resources existing in Christ Jesus, and we are exhorted not to fail to avail ourselves of that grace continually.
We are reminded too that we have a great high priest in heaven, a mediator, and an advocate who ever lives to make intercession for us. He is praying for us right now and even knows our need before we ask.
The Apostle Paul had many trials, temptations and pressures in life-- from which the rest of us as believers are not exempted-- but God told him His grace is sufficient for every situation. My advice to myself, therefore, is to drink deeply of His grace to guide me in my understanding and response to whatever comes my way.
By selfless service and enduring hardship in His strength we show we are identifying ourselves with the sufferings of Christ . This produces deep joy and good character development, and we are told it carries the approval of God.
"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them" (Hebrews 6:10).

I pray with you all that our loved ones may avail themselves of the grace of forgiveness, hope and strength which God so freely makes available at the Cross. Pray that they may reach out and touch the Lord. Now !